I agreed to cover the St. Patrick’s Day post this year. Even though we have a serious cold front coming through right now: 40s at night and only mid-60s during the day…oh the humanity! But unlike Nightown, Upward Wing isn’t on the hard and snowed in. So I persevered…but it very much called for a warming stew. Break out the pressure cooker!
And of course I’ve been indulging my inner Asian Galley Pirate lately, with the exotic cuisines of Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore. So to all of a sudden turn to the lowly potato and try to get inspired was another challenge. Our Texas friends were in town for their second annual spring break visit, and have come to understand that if they want Mexican, they need to start showing up at Cinco de Mayo instead. Or at least a week later for some Italian on St. Joseph’s Day! Luckily they love lamb, and seemed not to protest the Stout Chocolate Bundt Cakes (recipe to come).
Irish Lamb Stew Under PressureJump to Recipe
2-1/2 pounds lamb (I used shoulder chops, but almost any cut will do)
2 yellow onions
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
Several sprigs fresh thyme
A dozen or so yellow potatoes
1 bottle stout beer (yep, Guinness a good choice)
Half a dozen or so carrots
2-3 cups good chicken stock
Fresh parsley and chives to garnish
The easy and galley-friendly part of this perfect cool-weather, complete dish? Relatively few, and hearty, well-storing ingredients, and the efficiency of cooking with a pressure cooker. The work? It’s Irish food…get out your knife and peeler.
To start, remove heavy pockets of fat, and cut the meat away from the bone on your lamb. You can skip the deboning if you are willing to serve the stew in big, wide soup bowls with knife and fork and let people butcher their own at the table, but we were looking at 18-knot winds and serving one-handed meals in deep bowls, so the meat needed to be off the bone and bite sized. If you do cut it from the bone, you can throw the bones into the pot during cooking, to let a bit of additional meat melt away and flavor the stew. I didn’t do this because there was a sad looking Spaniel expressing his interest in having the still-meaty lamb bones roasted for his consumption. Chop the onions as well.
Heat the oil and butter in your pressure cooker and brown the meat and onions. Add a bit of salt to this stage to flavor and pull out some liquid.
Peel half of your potatoes and dice them fairly small (3/4″ or so chunks). These will cook down in the stew and thicken the broth. One of the differences between making stew in a regular, long-cooking pot versus a pressure cooker is you don’t lose all the liquid and the broth will be flavorful but quite thin. Stir these small-dice potatoes and sprigs of thyme into the meat and onions.
Add the stout and bring to a boil. Add chicken stock just to cover the solids.
If you have an included rack/tray or even just a steamer basket, you can place it on top of the stew at this point to support the other vegetables. Putting them on top lets them cook but not disintegrate, and keeping them separate enhances the process, but you can also just rest them on top to almost the same effect.
Peel the remaining potatoes and carrots. Cut the carrots into approximately 2″ lengths, and halve or quarter the potatoes. Place on top of the solids.
Seal up the pressure cooker and bring up to high pressure. Now here’s the magic — cook at pressure for about 20 minutes. Not two-plus hours, like a regular stew pot. Another convenience? I made this stew the day before and just left it sealed up after it finished cooking…no refrigeration required. If you are not waiting to the next day, at least let the pressure dissipate naturally — i.e. just let the pot sit for another 12 minutes or so off-heat before releasing the lid.
Open the pot and test the vegetables to see that they are cooked through. Lift the vegetables out into a separate bowl, remove the steamer basket or rack if you used it, and bring the stew back to serving temperature if you’ve held it until cool. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve the stew into bowls and put the whole vegetables on top. (Remove the thyme sprigs as you find them while serving.)
Chop parsley and chives for garnish — yep, Ulu time! I’ve seen recipes where they melt a stick of butter and stir the herbs into it, then drizzle the herb butter over the top of the whole-vegetables when the stew is served. This sounds absolutely delightful, and if you used a lean cut of meat you might try it. My lamb was well marbled and released enough fat into the broth that more seemed — even for Galley Pirates! — like overkill.
Serve to a happy crew and a hopeful Spaniel. Here’s to an English Springer having the Luck-o’-the-Irish!
- 2.5 pounds lamb
- 2 yellow onions
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 12 yellow potatoes
- 1 bottle stout beer, like Guinness
- 3-4 cups chicken stock
- 6 whole carrots
- 1/2 cup each, fresh parsley and chives to garnish
Cut meat from bones of lamb and remove large chunks of fat. Chop onions. Brown meat and onions in oil and butter over high heat, adding about 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Peel and dice to about 3/4" pieces half the potatoes. Add to the meat and onions along with the fresh thyme sprigs.
Add the beer and bring to a boil. Add just enough stock to cover the solids. Peel remaining potatoes and carrots and cut into large chunks (2" pieces). Place on top of stew without submerging.
Seal pressure cooker and bring to high pressure. Cook for 20 minutes at high pressure, then release naturally, allowing to sit off heat for at least 12 minutes before opening.
Set aside whole vegetables and season stew with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with whole vegetables on top and garnish with parsley and chives.